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Power Points for Aging Can Keep Seniors on Healthy Course

Senior woman and her caregiver exercizing together
The four main successful aging practices are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a healthy diet.

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October 11, 2011

A daily diet of four habits that consists of smoking abstinence, weight maintenance, regular exercise and sensible dinner-table practices can help seniors enjoy their golden years. So can companionship.

Q. Is there a formula for healthy aging that I can help my 76-year-old widowed dad implement to keep him well longer?

Researchers recently identified four healthy lifestyle factors that could go a long way toward reducing your father’s risk of contracting common and deadly diseases. Those successful aging practices are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a healthy diet.

Together, these four lifestyle attributes appear to be associated with as much as an 80 percent reduction in the risk of developing such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The article explains that cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes-chronic diseases, which account for most deaths, are largely preventable. “An impressive body of research has implicated modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, diet and body weight in the causes of these diseases,” the authors write.

After adjusting for age, sex, education level and occupation, individuals with more healthy lifestyle factors were less likely to develop chronic diseases. Participants who had all four healthy aging factors at the beginning of the study had a 78 percent lower risk of developing any of the chronic diseases during the follow-up period than those who had none of the healthy factors.

Although it was not included in the study, companionship also is an important part of a senior’s healthy lifestyle. Since your father is alone, make sure that he has the kind of meaningful social interaction that will help him continue to live an independent and healthy life.

One answer can be a professional caregiving companion. Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGiversSM, for instance, to assist seniors with tasks such as meal preparation, errands and shopping. The local Home Instead Senior Care office has developed various other resources to help seniors and their families. The organization’s Craving Companionship program at mealsandcompanionship.com can help seniors stay more connected socially and eat more nutriously.

Seniors who are alone, particularly those who need help with the activities of daily living, are at risk of developing unhealthy lifestyle habits without this important support.

For more about this article, visit http://pubs.ama-assn.org/media/2009a/0810.dtl#2.

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